A food crisis looms unless land use and agricultural production is transformed, UN climate panel warns

  • A report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change warns that it will be impossible to keep worldwide temperatures at safe levels unless humans change the way they produce food and use land.
  • The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said global warming is already exacerbating food insecurity by destroying crop yields, decreasing livestock productivity and increasing pests and diseases on farmland.
  • The IPCC said that warming starting at 2 degrees Celsius could trigger an international food crisis.
  • If greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, in roughly 20 years the atmosphere will warm up by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

A report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change warns that it will be impossible to keep worldwide temperatures at safe levels unless humans change the way they produce food and use land. Simply cutting carbon emissions from automobiles and factories alone won’t be enough to avert a worldwide food crisis.

The report, issued on Wednesday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, describes how global warming is already exacerbating food insecurity by destroying crop yields, decreasing livestock productivity and increasing pests and diseases on farmland.

The IPCC said that warming starting at 2 degrees Celsius could trigger an international food crisis in upcoming years. This July was the hottest month ever recorded, with global temperatures up 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, in roughly 20 years the atmosphere will warm up by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“This is not the distant future. People should be nervous,” said Tim Searchinger, a senior fellow at the World Resources Report.

In fact, the temperature over land is warming at twice the speed of the global average, and has already reached over the 1.5 Celsius mark, according to the report.

The global food system contributes up to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly through raising cattle, cultivating rice and adding fertilizer to farmland. Agriculture and other land use, which produce about 23% of human-caused emissions, has increased soil erosion, while deforestation and significant food waste has further increased carbon emissions.

The looming crisis is made worse by more frequent extreme weather events triggered by rising temperatures…

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